A recap: Spirit of Japan stage 1

I'm back in Holland now for about two weeks, and I've been sorting the photos of my trip. While reviewing the photos I took I found that there's really still a lot that I want to share on this blog, so I've decided to recap my trip here and share some new photos with you. Here's part one, which covers the trip from Atsugi, Kanagawa until the first ferry I took, south of Nagoya.

Day 1: My last moments in the Atsugi Youth Heim

Looking back on the first part of the trip really makes me feel as if it hadn't really started yet. All the way until Nagoya, and even most parts of the Kii peninsula, it just felt like a short trip, and I didn't quite have the right mindset yet. The weather was cold, very cold. I camped the first night, and then climbed higher and higher while temperatures got lower and lower. It was common sense not to camp near the Fuji five lakes area, where snow fell and sakura blossomed, even though in Tokyo the sakura season was already ending.

Day 1: steep mountain roads
Day 1: searching for a place to camp
Day 1: Riverside camping in the mountains
Day 1: a closed camp site in the distance.

I reached my limits very quickly on the second day of cycling. My bicycle was too heavy, my pre-trip training had been insufficient and I was very much overweight. Not ideal conditions to climb 800 meters on a windy road in the mountains. I really, truly reached my limits that day, and I had to pause for about an hour under a tree at the side of the road in the middle of nowhere, unable to motivate myself to go on. Other cyclists passed me while I was waiting, and finally I gathered the strength to go on. No walking, cycling in the lowest gear. I was tired beyond belief, and every time I heard a car approaching I prayed that it would be a small truck so I could try to ask the driver to take me to the top, because I really doubted my own strength. Eventually I reached another resting point in front of a tunnel, and some other cyclists were there waiting. I asked them if it was much farther to the highest point, as I didn't know where I was. They told me I was already there. It was over. My trip to Mount Fuji: the worst part is complete!

Day 3: rain
Day 3: it's cold.
Day 3: low clouds over the lake

Things got worse from there. I took a break the next day because it was raining: I left my luggage at the youth hostel I was staying at and cycled around lake Kawaguchi without my luggage, in the rain. I felt bored and anxious to go on, so I set my mind on departing the next day. The next day it snowed.

Day 4: snow

I wasn't prepared at all for this kind of weather. I expected it to be sunny and 20C, maybe a bit cold at night but not too bad. It was bad. Temperatures were near the freezing point and a nasty cold wind made me feel terrible as I cycled down 1000 meters back to sea level while it was snowing. I'll never forget the moment that I woke up at the youth hostel and first walked outside to find my bicycle covered in snow.

Day 4: beautiful snowy trees
Day 4: an empty road near Aokigahara forest

(B, if you're reading this, this is the same road we walked on in the middle of the night, two summers ago)

Day 4: a snowy lake
Day 5: Mount Fuji appears again

From there on things got a bit easier. The weather cleared up, the roads got flatter and I made excellent progress on the seaside road to Nagoya. This was the first time that I felt comfortable enough to try out some roads at random while following my compass, and I kept on traveling like that ever since. It was also the time that I faced my first misconception: in my mind I had thought that cycling to Nagoya would take about a day. It took three days. And the weather was still colder than I expected.

Day 5: Blue skies are back
Day 5: Ocean roads
Day 5: at a temple on a hill

Making good speed on the ocean roads I quite enjoyed the scenery on day 5. Day 6 was dreadfully cold and gray and I'd rather forget all about it. Day 7 smelled very nice. Here's a video I took on day 5.

Day 5: All the way south of Fuji, ready to turn West
Day 6: supervising my bicycle at Hamamatsu
Day 6: off the beaten path
Day 6: on a sandy road
Day 6: camp site

I ventured onto a side road looking for a place to buy some food, which I found at a conbini. Then I decided to follow the side road to search for a camp site. Eventually the road changed from asphalt to rocks, and then sand, and it became impossible to continue cycling. I walked about a kilometer in the sand with my bike until I found a suitable camp site. Fortunately for me there I found a proper road nearby the next day and didn't suffer much. Here's a video I took while waiting for the sun to set.

Day 7: the road to Kii
Day 7: first ferry crossing!

I cycled on and on along the seaside until I ran out of land, and then I took the ferry to the Kii peninsula. That's all the photos I've sorted so far, so more later!

Posted in Photography , Spirit of Japan